Installing tile flooring in your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. With the right preparation and tools, even novice DIYers can lay tile flooring themselves. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through each step of the tile installation process from start to finish.
Before beginning a tile installation project, it’s important to thoroughly plan the layout and gather all necessary materials. Accurately measuring the space, purchasing enough tile, using proper tools, and taking safety precautions will ensure a smooth installation.
In the following sections, we will cover:
- Benefits of tile flooring in the kitchen
- Tile types – ceramic, porcelain, natural stone
- How to choose tile
- Tools and materials needed
- Subfloor preparation
- Tile layout planning
- Cutting tiles
- Installing backerboard
- Applying thinset mortar
- Laying the tiles
- Grouting the tiles
- Finishing and protection
By the end, you’ll have the knowledge to tackle a kitchen tile installation with confidence. Let’s get started!
The Benefits of Tile Flooring in Kitchens
There are many great reasons to choose tile for kitchen floors, including:
Durability – Tile is incredibly durable, long-lasting, and stands up well to heavy foot traffic. The hard, fired clay or porcelain material resists scratches, stains, and water damage.
Easy to Clean – Grout lines between tiles create a seamless, non-porous surface that wipes clean easily. Tile requires no waxing or special cleaners.
Design Options – Tile comes in a vast array of colors, patterns, textures, shapes, and styles. Mix and match to create a custom look.
Adds Value – Updating old floors with new tile can significantly increase a home’s resale value. Tile offers a high-end, quality appearance.
Comfort – Tile feels cooler underfoot than other flooring options. Its hard surface is also more supportive when standing for long periods.
In summary, tile flooring brings beauty, durability, and functionality to kitchens. The water-resistance also makes tile a practical option for rooms prone to spills.
Tile Types for Kitchen Floors
The three main categories of tile to consider for kitchen installation are:
Ceramic – Made from clay that is fired at high temperatures. Denser than porcelain, with slightly more variation in size and color. Best for low-moderate traffic.
Porcelain – Made from refined clay fired at higher temperatures than ceramic. Harder and more uniform in size. Withstands heavy traffic.
Natural Stone – Tile cut from quarries of materials like granite, marble, slate, travertine, limestone. Unique veining patterns with high-end look. Requires sealing.
Within each category many styles are available:
- Matte, glossy, or textured finishes
- Colors, patterns, shapes
- Small mosaics or large format tiles
Choose the look that fits your kitchen design vision. Keep practical factors like traffic and moisture levels in mind when selecting tile type.
How to Choose the Right Tile
Carefully evaluating your space and needs will ensure you select the best tile for your kitchen floor. Follow these tips when choosing:
- Consider the area’s usage level – High-traffic spaces do best with durable porcelain or textured surface tiles that resist slipping.
- Assess moisture levels – Bathrooms and kitchens prone to spills warrant tiles with low porosity and slip resistance. Avoid glossy surfaces.
- Decide on tile size – Small mosaics provide classic charm. Larger tiles speed up installation. Measure to find your ideal size.
- Complement the room – Choose colors, patterns, shapes that enhance your cabinetry, counters, and decor style.
- Set a budget – Ceramic costs less than porcelain or natural stone. Decide how much you can spend before shopping.
- Purchase extra tiles – Order 10-15% more than the room measurements recommend to allow for cuts, waste and future repairs.
Take time to view tile types and styles in home improvement stores. Bring home samples to preview in your space before purchasing.
Tools and Materials Checklist
Installing a tile floor is a significant project that requires specialty tools. Be sure to have all necessary equipment ready before starting.
EssentialTile Installation Tools
- Tile saw – wet saw for accurate cuts
- Tile cutter – manual cutter for straight cuts
- Tile nippers – nippers to trim small angled pieces
- Notched trowel – for spreading thinset adhesive
- Grout float – for applying grout between tiles
- Grout sponge – smooths and cleans excess grout
Additional Hand Tools
- Pry bar
- Utility knife
- Straight edge
- Measuring tape
- Chalk line
- Safety gloves and goggles
Materials and Supplies
- Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tile
- Thinset mortar adhesive
- Tile backerboard
- Thinset mortar additive if needed
- Tiles spacers
- Sealer if using natural stone
Preparing the Subfloor
The subfloor sits beneath your new tile and serves as the foundation for the installation. Ensuring the subfloor is properly prepped prevents future problems.
For wood subfloors, inspect for damage or soft spots. Repair weak areas by nailing in new support boards. The floor must be flat and securely fastened to avoid squeaking.
For concrete slabs, check for cracks or powdery surfaces. Repair minor cracks with concrete caulk. Roughen smooth concrete using a floor grinder or acid etching. Remove wax, oil, paint and adhesives so the thinset mortar bonds tightly.
Other tips for subfloor prep:
- Clean thoroughly to remove dirt, debris and dust
- Fill any low spots or holes with floor leveling compound
- Test moisture levels – excess moisture requires a vapor barrier
The subfloor must be flat, stable, and dry before installing tile. Address any underlying issues at this stage.
Planning the Tile Layout
Carefully mapping out your tile layout beforehand streamlines the installation process and minimizes cuts. Consider the following factors:
- Tile sizes – Mixing sizes creates interest. Very small mosaics take more time to install.
- Pattern and direction – Lay tile in a grid, herringbone, diagonal or other pattern. Run lengths perpendicular to floor joists.
- Borders – Frame the perimeter with a contrasting border tile if desired.
- Room size and shape – Adjust layout to avoid narrow tile cuts against walls. Center tiles in the room.
- Fixture placement – Ensure tiles around cabinets, appliances, etc. are evenly sized.
Make a rough sketch of your planned layout. Measure the room and mark the center point. Dry lay tiles with spacers to visualize placement. Adjust and finalize the design before installing.
How to Cut Ceramic and Porcelain Tile
Fitting tiles against walls or around fixed objects involves precision cuts. Avoid jagged edges and cracked tiles by using proper tile cutting tools.
For straight cuts, use a manual tile cutter. Position the tile face up in the cutter, lining the score mark up to your measurement. Use firm pressure on the cutter lever to score the surface. Snap the tile downward to break cleanly along the score.
Around penetrations or for detailed cuts, a wet saw is needed. These saws cool tiles with water to prevent overheating. Place tile face up in the saw bed. Run the blade slowly through the tile at the desired angle or shape.
Use tile nippers for small irregular edge pieces. Hold the nippers at a 45-degree angle and chip off small sections of the tile edge.
Cut tiles as you go for a custom fit. Smooth sharp edges with an abrasive stone. Try test cuts on old tiles first.
Installing Cement Backerboard
Cement backerboard provides a rigid, stable substrate for floor tile installation. It prevents cracks and improves thinset adhesion.
On wood subfloors, screw backerboard directly into floor joists. Over concrete floors, secure it with thinset mortar. Follow these tips:
- Check that subfloor is clean, dry and flat
- Cut boards to fit with utility knife or backerboard scissors
- Space 1/4″ gap between boards and walls
- Stagger seams in a bricklike pattern
- Screw off every 6-8 inches across boards and seams
- Tape and thinset all seams and corners
Around tub/shower enclosures, make sure backerboard is rated for wet areas. Install so it sits just above the lip.
Allow thinset mortar to fully cure before continuing with tile prep. Moisture protection is now in place.
Applying Thinset Mortar
Thinset mortar bonds the tile to the subfloor surface. Using the proper technique ensures every tile adheres tightly.
Work in sections so thinset doesn’t dry out before tiles are set. Spread thinset with a notched trowel held at a 45-degree angle. Apply even layers 2-3 inches wide across the backerboard or subfloor.
Use the trowel notches to comb full contact thinset onto the surface. Position tiles into the ridges of thinset and press down firmly. Twist slightly to collapse the ridges, pressing out air pockets.
Around penetrations, spread thinset to fill any gaps before setting tile. Around door jambs or cabinets, butter thinset on tile edges for full contact.
Allow for even grout lines by keeping tiles spaced evenly with plastic spacers. Ensure proper coverage by periodically lifting out a tile to check thinset transfer.
How to Lay the Tile
Once thinset mortar is spread, it’s time to lay the tile. Follow best practices for an even appearance:
- Dry lay tiles first to confirm layout and fit
- Working in 3-4 foot sections, butter tile backs with thinset
- Use spacers between tiles for consistent grout line spacing
- Gently lay tiles into thinset and press down firmly
- Ensure tiles are aligned and evenly spaced
- Use level and straightedge to check for lippage
- Continue laying tiles across entire room
Around uneven walls/objects, use the cardboard tile backing or tile scraps to maintain even grout lines. Avoid narrow slivers of tile against walls.
Let thinset cure fully (24-48 hours) before grouting. Avoid walking on tiles before grout is applied. Surface irregularities can still be adjusted.
Grouting the Tile
Grout fills the joints between tiles, sealing the floor and creating a finished look. White or colored sanded grout suits floor installations.
Ensure grout joints are evenly spaced and free of thinset, dust and debris. Grout caulk corners and edging first. When ready to grout:
- Work in small sections so grout stays workable
- Hold float at a 45-degree angle, packing grout deeply into joints
- Wipe diagonally across tiles to fill any low spots
- Allow grout to slightly harden (20 minutes)
- Use a damp grout sponge in circular motions to smooth and clean
- Rinse sponge and re-wipe to remove haze
- Once fully dry, buff surface lightly with a towel
Avoid excess water when sponging to prevent discoloration or cracks. Allow 72 hours cure time before light foot traffic. Wait one week before wet mopping or using harsh cleaners.
Finishing Touches and Protection
The final steps complete your new tile flooring installation:
- Install matching transition strips if needed between rooms
- Apply sealer to grout and natural stone tiles to protect from stains
- Caulk perimeter gaps between floor and walls/cabinets with acrylic caulk
- Allow mortar and grout to fully cure before washing floor
- Use foam tile spacers during first few weeks to prevent movement
Routinely sweep and mop your new tile floor to keep the grout joints clean. Well-maintained tile floors provide years of beauty, value and enjoyment.
Conclusion: Installing Tile Flooring in Kitchen
Installing a tile floor adds character and quality to kitchens or entryways. With proper planning and patience, DIYers can tackle their own tile project and save on installation costs. If done correctly, the results will last for decades.
We covered the complete process from subfloor prep to finishing details. Remember to gather all tools and materials beforehand. Setting tiles on a flat, stable surface and allowing adequate cure time are also key to durability.
Laying tile flooring requires physical exertion and attention to detail. Go slowly and follow all safety precautions. Handling multiple small pieces on your knees can be taxing. Take breaks as needed to protect against injury.
Tile transforms plain subfloors into works of art. The sense of accomplishment after completing a floor tile installation yourself is very rewarding. We hope these tips give you the knowledge to install tile like a pro. If you need further help, contact Pinnacle Building Group to help you with kitchen tile installation and full kitchen remodel in the Metro Atlanta area.